There is something truly magical about the sound of several voices coming together in harmony. But the composition of a choir is more technical and more intricate than simply asking a group to sing a song.

A beautiful-sounding choir is like a well-oiled machine. Each of its parts works and sings independently, but they come together to form something far greater than the sum of its parts.

The most common voices or parts used in mixed choir ensembles are:

Soprano: typically a female singing voice with the highest vocal range.

Alto: the second highest vocal range and typically the lowest range sung by a female member.

Tenor: a male singing voice with the highest vocal range.

Bass: the lowest vocal range of all voice types and typically the lowest range sung by a male member.

The different vocal ranges will generally stand together and the conductor will ultimately decide how to arrange his or her choir. However, for symphonic choirs, it is common for conductors to arrange their choir from left to right, beginning with the highest vocals to the lowest. For a cappella singing, the men are often placed at the back, with the women in front. The smallest details can make a big difference to the sound an audience hears – from the room or space the choir are performing in and things like the height of the ceiling to the space left between the singers.

Types of Choir
There are various types of choirs though a mixed choir is generally the most common – these include both male and female voices and the four ranges above, so Sopranos, Altos, Tenor and Bass voices. Male voice choirs are also a common choir type as are all female voice choirs and youth choirs.

The importance of the conductor
So what is the person doing at the front, waving their arms around?

A conductor is holding everything together. He or she is responsible for the tempo and for instructing members of the different vocal groups when to start singing and when to stop. He or she uses hand gestures to indicate volume and tempo and uses gestures with his or her head, face and eyes to communicate with the choir and with individuals throughout their performances.

A conductor is like a chef managing different elements of his dish as they are being cooked – turning, stirring, beating, cooling, boiling……juggling all the different elements and keeping them timed to perfection in order to create the perfect dish: The perfect musical performance.

To find out more about our choirs at the Yorkshire College of Music and Drama, give us a call on 0113 243 1605.